Les Hurdes (Land Without Bread) Reviews
There is no sound other than a voice-over describing what is happening on the screen. Whilst hearing the sounds and voices would have been nice, without it makes you pay extra attention to some of the astonishing scenes on show. This is not a documentary showing those suffering but rather how the small community manages to live a normal life with so little. It is extraordinary hearing about how they handle burials.
Whilst the filmmakers describe it as a documentary, some viewers will argue it to be the first ever parody of a documentary. It is easy to see where they are coming from. Some shots are clearly set up including an amusing multi-angle shot of a goat falling down a cliff. The narrator also comes out with lines which are not entirely serious.
Whether you find it amusing or distressing, Land Without Bread manages to keep your attention the entire half an hour.
That said I'd like to remind that I'm against fascism, but I'm against the distortion of reality as well.
The stars I gave are just for the historical value of that document.
Why I'm bringing this up? Well, I just watched a black and white documentary short by great avantgardist Luis Bunuel - in French - without subtitles - in a theater.
Terre sans Pain runs for only about half an hour and its main subject, a grinding poor mountain region in Spain seems not very interesting, but this is a very fine example of what's the essential skill that made Bunuel a star.
TSP is told without any compromise, it starts with this strange and macabre rite in L'Alberca that has newlyweds snap off rooster heads up to the examination of the various types of incest-related malformations in Las Hurdes.
I wouldn't call it surrealistic or even avant-garde, it's pretty straight-forward but you can clearly see Bunuel talent in finding the exact right look for every frame he's filming and the objective and calm tone of the narrator is in stark contrast to the pictures and the pretty leftist messages he conveys.
Visually stunning (well, maybe stunning is not the right word, rather perfectly framed), gory (sounds like fun, doesn't it) and surprisingly emotionally deep, Terre sans Pain is another point of favour for Bunuel.
One thing that is always questioned however is whether it's even a real documentary or not. There are some parts that are obviously staged, such as: the goat falling off the cliff to its death, the donkey's death due to being stung by so many bees, and how some of the narration contradicts what is being shown on screen. Because the line between what is real and what isn't is so vague, it makes the film all the more complex, especially for being a film that is just under half an hour. Not everything that is shown may be real, but there is no doubt that the events depicted in it do actually happen. But what makes the film all the more powerful is how neither the Catholic Church nor the government even care to try and fix the problems in the region that is just so obvious. I believe that was BuÃ±uel's intent for the film; open the viewerâ(TM)s eyes to the despicableness that these organization do by ignoring the poor. Land Without Bread is a pretty stunning accomplishment; this is highly recommended viewing. 9/10